Britain Should Not Have To Sacrifice Our Democracy In The Name Of Franco-German Reconciliation

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No, the EU did not “keep the peace” in Europe. And Britain should not be expected to sacrifice our own democracy in the name of Franco-German reconciliation

Continuing the apocalyptic hysteria now emanating from the intellectually bankrupt pro-EU Remainers, Jonathan Freedland has a particularly offensive piece in the Guardian, comparing Brexit to the election of Donald Trump as potential calamities on a similar scale before declaring that he would sooner see a President Trump than a newly independent Britain.

Freedland phrases his question:

What if the devil came to visit you in the dead of night? What if, dressed in a fine suit, his tail and pitchfork artfully concealed, Lucifer himself offered you a deal? Knowing the anxiety that was keeping you – a good, progressive type – up at night, he promised that he would grant you one, but only one, of your two deepest current wishes: you could either be sure that Donald Trump would lose the US presidential election or you could be guaranteed that Britain would vote to stay in the European Union. You could have one or the other, but not both. Which would you choose?

Because, of course, Guardian readers are saintly and virtuous while anybody with conservative instincts is intrinsically disordered in some way.

Freedland goes on to explain why he chooses President Trump over Brexit:

But the future viability of the UK is not the reason I’d be tempted to use up my one devilish wish to prevent Brexit. Nor is it the near-certain economic gloom that will befall this country, an outcome so obvious when you take a step back and consider any country voluntarily giving up its right to trade on advantageous terms with a market of 500 million customers.

No, the spectre that would haunt me as Satan drummed his fingers, waiting for my decision, would be much more elemental. It is the fear that the European Union, already battered by the eurozone crisis, simply could not withstand the departure of one of its “big three” members. We would not be tugging at a mere thread but yanking out a guy rope: the EU would collapse – maybe not straightaway, but eventually.

[..] Why should that bother us? We’d be well out of it by then. But remember the history of this continent. The story of Europe is the story of near-constant war and bloodshed. The 100 years war, the 30 years war, the Spanish wars, the Franco-Prussian wars, the two world wars of the last century: this is what the nations of Europe do to one another – unless they are held together in an arrangement that obliges them to settle their differences around a Brussels conference table, where the most mortal danger is tedium and late-night halitosis.

This is what the European project is about. Not just goods and services and trade and jobs, important as all those things are, and crazy as we would be to jeopardise them. But about life and limb. And make no mistake: if the EU’s 27 member states become Europe’s 27 warring nations, we will not be safely detached, serenely distant across the Channel. We will be drawn in, as we always have been.

In other words, Jonathan Freedland seriously believes – or at least is willingly to publicly say – that peace in Europe has nothing to do with economic growth, nothing to do with the atomic age and Mutual Assured Destruction, nothing to do with NATO or the Marshall Plan and nothing to do with the fact that economically advanced, liberal democracies just don’t tend to declare war on one another. No, in Freedland World, the only thing preventing Europe from instantly reverting back to 1914 is the grand projet by which our troublesome nation states are slowly being dissolved once and for all.

Freedland concludes:

It takes an extraordinary confidence to look at the last millennium of European history and gamble that the 70 years of peace that have held since 1945 – an exceptional, aberrational interlude – have had nothing to do with the existence of the European project. Do we really think it’s a coincidence that no two EU member states have ever fought each other? Do we want to roll the dice to find out? Do we feel that lucky?

What piffle. Don’t seek the restoration of nation state democracy and the repatriation of powers gradually frittered away to a largely unaccountable supranational government of Europe, because to do so might unleash a time warp taking us all back to 1914. Is this really what the pro-EU die-hards are now reduced to?

Pete North is having none of it:

Oh really? You don’t think that the peace came from the desire of the peoples to create the peace? Instead it had to be enforced by a sovereignty-confiscating artificial entity? Or could it be that the second world war era was not really concluded until the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Up to that point the peace was held in place by fear of mutually assured destruction. Nobody wanted to break the uneasy stalemate because of the lethal consequences it would unleash. I think it safe to say the EEC had precisely zero influence in maintaining or building the peace.

He says “let Britain remain, to prevent the 21st century being as drenched in blood and sorrow” but this really rather ignores the reality that peaceful democracies as a rule do not go to war with each other, and it is unlikely we will be fighting over those resources which the EU pooled. I don’t see a war over coal and steel, do you?

Moreover, if the peoples of Europe are prevented from influencing the laws they must live by without the possibility of reform or repeal, what do you suppose is going to happen? Are you saying that a strong supranational authority will maintain the peace by enforcing it? How is it going to do that exactly? And what sort of peace is that when it is an authority stifling a democratic correction? Tyranny that’s what it is. Peace at the barrel of a gun.

Everywhere we look in Europe we see stresses and strains with ever more resentment as the EU is caught up in its own institutional paralysis, failing to adequately respond to the many emergencies it has a hand in creating. This leads to increasingly unilateral action and the rise of the far right everywhere. That doesn’t end well in Europe does it? And there are of course two other supranational projects in Europe in the last century. Yugoslavia and the USSR. Remind me how well that worked out.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Jonathan Freedland seems to be suggesting that regardless of the economic question, Britain should willingly sacrifice her own democracy and right to self-determination in order to help preserve an apparently fractious peace in Europe. He is arguing that the inability of the British people to exercise meaningful control over those who lead us is a small price worth paying in this effort. He is, effectively, saying that democracy has little value.

In Freedland World, Britain should sacrifice her democracy happily and willingly to reduce even by a minuscule fraction the future possibility of France and Germany going at each other again. It’s self evident, apparently.

I’m sorry, but no. Any petty grudges or historic rivalries remaining in Europe are not a sufficiently good reason for me to throw away my right to live in a democracy. I’m glad that Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel shared that special moment together at the Verdun centenary memorial where they held hands, gazed into each other’s eyes and “forgave” each other for past national sins. Good for them. Still doesn’t trump our right to help elect the people who make the key domestic, trade and foreign policy decisions impacting our lives, and to kick them out of office if we disapprove of the job they are doing.

Every day that passes reveals in a new light the sheer disdain in which the pro-EU British Left hold the very idea of democracy. If they are not warning us portentously that returning power to Westminster might result in an elected British government doing things that it was elected to do (pass the smelling salts!) they are now suggesting that democracy is a mere trifle, something with which we should be happy to part in order to prevent other third parties from behaving in a self-destructive way.

I’m not having it. And the turning opinion polls suggest that the British people as a whole aren’t having it either – that in actual fact we like the idea of democracy, value it rather more highly than our “moral superiors” in the Guardian and resent the establishment’s coordinated attempt at scaring us into dropping our demands for self-determination.

And at some point after the EU referendum, whichever way it goes, the Jonathan Freedlands of this world (and the pro-EU British Left in general) will need to explain, account and hopefully atone for coming down so unapologetically on the wrong side of democracy.

 

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Little Englander Conspiracy Theories, Eh?

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It isn’t difficult to discern the trajectory of the European Union over the next decades. Just listen to the words of the EU’s leading political figures from past and present

Leave Alliance blogger Paul Reynolds has published an excellent retort to claims by assorted Remainers and EU apologists that those of us who warn of the impending European state are somehow indulging in paranoid fantasies.

For while everyone in the Remain campaign, from the prime minister on downwards, may be shouting “move along, nothing to see here!” while the scaffolding for a single European state continues to be steadily assembled behind their outstretched arms, any objective person can clearly see what is going on.

Among the examples given by Reynolds, in a piece entitled “A Profound Choice”:

“We have sown a seed… Instead of a half-formed Europe, we have a Europe with a legal entity, with a single currency, common justice, a Europe which is about to have its own defence. ” — Valery Giscard d’Estaing, President of the EU Convention, presenting the final draft of the EU Constitution, 13th June 2003

“The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through old treaties in the form of amendments. Why this subtle change? Above all, to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary!” — Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, 2007, referring to the the Lisbon Treaty achieving the aims of the rejected EU constitution

“The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State.” — Guy Verhofstadt, then Belgian Prime Minister, now an MEP

“The European Union is a state under construction.” — Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs

“Of course the European Commission will one day become a government, the EU council a second chamber and the European Parliament will have more powers.” — German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing MEPs,  November 2012.

“We need a true political union … we need to build a United States of Europe with the Commission as government and two chambers – the European Parliament and a “Senate” of Member States … European Parliament elections are more important than national elections … This will be our best weapon against the Eurosceptics.” — Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, January 2014

“For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe” — Matteo Renzi, Italian Prime Minister, May 2014

 “I look forward to the day when the Westminster Parliament is just a council chamber in Europe.” — Kenneth Clarke, Conservative Chancellor in International Currency Review Vol 23 No 4 1996

Reynolds then goes on to show how this was the plan all along. As it was in the beginning:

Nor should anyone believe that this is a recent development. The EU was always conceived as a vehicle for supra-national federal union, dating right back to its founding organisation, the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) established in 1951:

“Through the consolidation of basic production and the institution of a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and the other countries that join, this proposal represents the first concrete step towards a European federation ..”
 — The Schuman declaration May 1950

“By the signature of this Treaty, the participating Parties give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organised Europe.” — Europe Declaration made on 18 April 1951, at the signing of the Treaty of Paris establishing the ECSC

Is now:

“Do you really want to participate in a common state? That’s the question.” — Francois Hollande, French President, addressing UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the European Parliament, 2015

And forever shall be:

This is reinforced by the proposals for the next EU treaty, The Fundamental Law of the European Union, published by the federalist Spinelli Group of MEPs, through the Bertelsmann house in late 2013. The preamble contains a telling paragraph:

“This proposal for a Fundamental Law of the European Union is a comprehensive revision of the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). Replacing the existing treaties, it takes a major step towards a federal union. It turns the European Commission into a democratic constitutional government, keeping to the method built by Jean Monnet in which the Commission drafts laws which are then enacted jointly by the Council, representing the states, and the European Parliament, representing the citizens. All the reforms proposed are aimed at strengthening the capacity of the EU to act.” 

European Political Union without end, Amen.

The time for childish, wistful self-deception is over. The British people need to wake up and make a decision – as Francois Hollande rightly exclaimed last year, in a moment of rare candour – about whether we want to participate in a common European state, or whether we wish to be independent, like every other major country in the world outside of Europe.

Ignorance about the intentions and trajectory of the European Union is no longer excusable. These quotes are not difficult to be defined. Neither can their existence be denied or countered in the way that the various economic claims on both sides have been subject to ridicule. These statements all exist because the real political leaders of Europe really do intend to take the European Union in this direction. Today’s EU institutions stand as testament to their vision and their determination to make it a reality.

Contrast the determined long game played by the euro federalists (the quotes selected by Paul Reynolds extend from 1951 through to 2015) with the flimsy, ethereal, cosmetic efforts of British politicians to supposedly win “concessions” from the EU. David Cameron’s renegotiation was nothing more than a grubby little fraud perpetrated on the British people, securing meaningless nods of assent from various heads of government acting in their own capacity, not the EU’s, most of whom will soon have moved on and been replaced by successors who do not feel bound to honour the various tidbits promised to Britain.

And leftists are no better. The once proud and principled tradition of left-wing euroscepticism is virtually dead, stabbed in the back by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Jones (was the guilt and shame of this betrayal – and he knows he is betraying his true values – the reason why Owen turned in such a weak performance on Question Time last night?). And the leftists are now queueing up to talk about their utterly unachievable pipe dream of hands-across-Europe socialism, pretending to themselves and the rest of us that the EU can somehow be “changed” into a perfect socialist vessel. The EU’s founders and current leaders have been working toward a common state for nearly a century! What gives the likes of Owen Jones and Yanis Varoufakis such misplaced confidence that their little socialist tugboat can alter the course of the EU’s giant oil tanker, steaming at maximum knots toward economic and political union?

No, there are only two choices available to Britain – leave the European Union and seek to become a self-governing democracy once again (like every other major country in the world), or remain in the European Union and continue down Francois Hollande’s path toward a common European state.

There is no third way. David Cameron’s renegotiated settlement is not worth the used napkin on which it is scrawled – as far as the EU is concerned, a “Remain” vote mean that Britain is all squared away and ready to continue the march toward political union.

And those who continue to fatuously claim that the EU is simply about cooperation, trade and sharing cookies with one another are lying – to themselves, and to the British people. That benign version of “Europe” is not on offer in this referendum. We have a choice between independence and re-engagement with the world as a confident, powerful player on the one hand, and continued participation in the journey to a common European state on the other.

Do you really want to participate in a common state?

As Britons step into the polling booth on 23 June, this is the question which should ring in our ears.

 

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Cameron The Weakling

David Cameron thinks that publicly exaggerating and flaunting Britain’s supposed weakness and vulnerability will make people vote to stay in the European Union, while having no impact on perceptions of his own leadership

We have already been treated to the spectacle of our wobbly-lipped Foreign Secretary insinuating that he is so inept at managing our foreign relations and defending Britain’s interests that we would likely be “punished” by our European friends if we voted to leave the EU.

And now it is David Cameron’s turn to make an ostentatious public spectacle of just how weak and insignificant he believes we are as a country, and how hopelessly unable to defend the British interest he is.

From Michael Deacon’s sketch in the Telegraph:

Francois Hollande, the President of France, respects the British people. He respects their democratic right to choose how they wish to be governed. He would never wish to put pressure on them. And if, when the referendum comes, they decide that the UK should leave the EU, he will respect their decision.

But, he added casually, there would of course be… “consequences”.

He said the word many times. “Consequences.” There would be “consequences” relating to trade, “consequences” relating to immigration. “Consequences?” Oh, he was “unable to deny” there would be “consequences”.

Was it true, asked a journalist, that if the UK left the EU, France would abandon the deal that helps stop migrants crossing illegally from Calais to Britain?

Monsieur Hollande looked at the journalist equably. Well, he replied. Naturally there would be “consequences”.

All of this took place while our prime minister stood limply next to the French president at his podium, as though French special forces had kidnapped Samantha and the kids and were holding them at gunpoint in the background.

At what point does the dirge-like, pessimistic drivel offered up by the Remain campaign and spouted ceaselessly by loyal government ministers stop making the public question whether Brexit is safe, and start making them question why the hell we pay these people if not to aggressively defend our own national interest?

Not to get all Land of Hope and Glory here, but Britain is still a reasonably big deal in the world. A major economic power, the premier European military power and one of a handful of countries in the world with real expeditionary capabilities, and a cultural reach probably second only to the United States. Most British people know this, and do not buy into the miserablist, declinist view of Britain peddled by so many in the Remain camp.

David Cameron has clearly made a calculation that talking about the catastrophic consequences of Brexit on the United Kingdom will scare up a significant number of votes and thus undermine the Leave campaigns. Never mind that it makes him look like a liar for having previously suggested that he might recommend Brexit if he was not successful in securing his pitiful package of “reforms”. And never mind the galling spectacle of a British prime minister actively and passionately running down his own country for electoral advantage.

Allister Heath picks up on this same theme in the Telegraph:

But the Government and many of its anti-Brexit allies have gone too far: instead of carefully stoking the public’s understandable fear of change, and planting doubt in its mind, they have decided to wildly exaggerate the downsides of leaving. The hit to the economy could be greater than that from the Great Recession, we are told by some hysterical economists, and even that best-selling children’s books would no longer be written because, apparently, no non-British authors or illustrators would be allowed into the UK if we were not part of the EU.

These and many other of the similarly extreme claims that have been made in recent days are laughably implausible, even to nervous, swing voters; fear is only effective as a political strategy if it is credible. Even worse for the Government, it has also allowed a toxic narrative to set in: the idea that it would be powerless to stand up for Britain’s interests and look after our economy in the event of a Leave vote.

It’s all rather pathetic and defeatist. It would be too hard and time-consuming to conclude alternative trade deals, we are warned, and we apparently don’t have the requisite skills in the Foreign Office; there is nothing anybody could do to stop our companies, consumers and tourists being bullied and victimised by vindictive foreign governments; and we would be bulldozed by the angry bureaucrats of Brussels wherever we turn. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has claimed that British expats living in Europe would risk “becoming illegal immigrants overnight”, even though their status would in fact be protected under the Vienna Convention of 1969.

Project White Flag, as we should learn to call it, boils down to one long stream of nauseating, miserable, declinist negativity. Alarm bells ought to be going off in Downing Street: politicians don’t win elections or referenda by pretending to be weak and powerless, and by claiming to be at the mercy of foreign governments.

As this blog has repeatedly stated, the Remain campaign need to make up their minds. Is the EU a soft and friendly club of countries getting together to braid each other’s hair and co-operate on a range of mutually beneficial issues, or is it a snarling, angry organisation which threatens to rough us up if we attempt to leave? Are we in a happy marriage with the EU, or an abusive relationship?

And we British citizens also need to make up our minds about something. We need to decide why we should continue to tolerate having in office a prime minister, foreign secretary and other elected officials who hold our country in lower estimation than many of their own citizens, and who – by their own admission – have stated that they would be unable to aggressively defend our national interest in the event of Brexit.

Because we are rapidly reaching the point where the public may start to question the point of keeping a pampered man and his family installed in Number 10 Downing Street at all,  when all he does is openly boast about his inability to influence other nations and stand up for Britain.

 

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How Should The “Leave” Campaign Use Nigel Farage?

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A small squabble in the European Parliament this week may have solved the quandary of how best to use Nigel Farage in the coming Brexit campaign

The biggest impact on Britain made by French president Francois Hollande thus far has been the steady exodus of financially successful French workers and their families to London, fleeing the sclerotic economy and punitively high taxes across the English Channel.

But now Hollande has surpassed himself. This week, France’s president inadvertently revealed a potential answer to the question that has been dogging the various rival “Leave” campaigns of those fighting for British secession from the European Union. That question: how best to utilise Nigel Farage, the man without whom this referendum would not be taking place at all, in a way which does not drive away swathes of other voters for whom the Farage and UKIP brands are toxic?

In Brussels on Wednesday to make a joint address to the European Parliament with Angela Merkel, Hollande allowed himself to become riled up by Nigel Farage’s questioning and posturing, and in doing so the French president let slip something which every other European leader knows, but none will say directly.

From the Telegraph:

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On Booty Calls and Morning Croissants, Ctd. 2

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is now weighing in on the ongoing scandal of the presidential booty calls and morning croissants, claiming that President Hollande has made himself and the French presidency “ridiculous”.

The Telegraph reports the following quote attributed to Sarkozy by French investigative journal Le Canard:

“While everyone has the right to a private life, when one is a public figure and president, one must be careful to avoid being ridiculous,” he is quoted as scoffing.

“Well, that photo of Hollande coming out of his mistress’ place with a motorbike helmet makes Hollande look totally ridiculous. He is the ridiculous president.”

The Daily Mail gives an even less flattering report of Sarkozy’s views:

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy views his successor Francois Hollande as a ‘ridiculous little fat man who dyes his hair’, it emerged today.

The vicious attack is reported by l’Express, the highly respected Paris news magazine whose editor is a close friend of Mr Sarkozy’s third wife, Carla Bruni.

As I see it, the bottom line is this – in three weeks, the French president has to fly to Washington, D.C. to represent his country abroad and maintain bilateral ties with a close ally. And all anyone will care about is whether Hollande might be found late at night zipping around capitol hill on the back of a scooter, looking for ladies. Even if there are non-scandal-related questions at the joint press conference, the only soundbites that will be reported will relate to the scandal back home in France. Hollande is supposed to make his country look good abroad, strengthen bilateral ties and promote France’s interests. Barring a miracle and a swift resolution to this tawdry affair, he won’t be doing that for some time to come.

The scandal is also now causing disquiet and unrest at home, as Buzzfeed reports that a man was arrested for dumping several tonnes of horse manure in front of the Palais Bourbon in protest at Hollande and the French political class in general:

Image from buzzfeed.com
Image from buzzfeed.com

And so this isn’t just an issue of invasion of privacy, or an educational tale highlighting the different attitudes toward privacy between the French and Anglo-American cultures. This is about basic competence, and the ability of a senior politician and statesman to effectively do their job. Actions taken in ones private life can impact this ability to effectively perform the job, and while the utmost respect and tact should rightly be shown to the president as he works through any problems in his personal life (as many have already argued), the most searching and uncompromising oversight should be applied to his performance in the job.

Francois Hollande has, through his own actions, rendered himself incompetent and, to some degree, incapacitated – politically, at least. This incapacity may be temporary or it may be irreversible, but either way it is self-inflicted and profound. It is down to the French people to determine how long they are willing to tolerate a leader for their failings, not in terms of their personal life but in terms of their ability to do the job.